Caramel Apple Cupcakes

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When the weekend comes around all I want to do is lounge and be in the kitchen.  I wish I had an endless money supply so I could test out as many new recipes as possible.  Hey, a girl can dream.  Last weekend I had to use up the rest of my apples I had picked up at the farm, so i decided to test out these caramel apple cupcakes.  To be honest they were not my favorite.  The icing was very sweet from the caramel and the cake was more muffin-like than cake-like.  So what do I do with baked goods that go awry? Feed them to my students.  They are always willing to be my taste testers.  What happened last year when I made cookies that came out hard as a rock?  Gave them to my kids.  They told me they were gross, yet they continued to eat them.  But surprisingly with these cupcakes my 2nd period class LOVED them.  Probably because they got a boat load of sugar at 9am. They were begging me for more, especially the boys.  So if you love sweet or you have 16 year old boys, go ahead and give these a shot!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

adapted from the Chic Table

Makes 12 cupcakes; Prep Time 30 min; Bake Time 16-20 min

Ingredients 

Apple Cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups diced Winesap apples, peeled

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting 

Caramel: (double recipe if you want extra to drizzle on top of cupcakes)

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, heated
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Frosting:

  • 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup thick caramel (recipe for homemade above, but to save time you could use store bought)
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl beat oil and brown sugar with a hand mixer (or a KitchenAid if you are lucky enough to have one!). Once combined add in egg and vanilla until mixed thoroughly.  Alternate adding dry ingredients and butter milk.  Add 1/3 of dry ingredients then 1/2 of the butter milk.  Repeat until all ingredients are combined.  Fold in diced apples.  Add liners to a cupcake pan and fill each to the top with batter.

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Pop in the oven for 16-20 minutes, until lightly browned.  Let cool for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

ImageWhile cupcakes are in the oven and cooling make the caramel.  This was my first time making caramel from scratch and I was nervous. I found it was actually quite simple and the taste is WAY better than store bought.  Plus, you avoid all of those nasty preservatives.  If you have the time I would highly recommend making your own.

In a small sauce pot add sugar and water. Stir.  Place over high heat until sugar begins to melt, then lower heat to medium.  While sugar is melting do not stir.  Watch carefully so the sugar does not burn.  Heat until sugar is light brown and you begin to smell it.

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Heat cream in the microwave for 45-60 seconds.  Make sure to leave plenty of room in container because cream will rise while heating.  Remove sugar from heat and let sit for about 15 seconds.  Pour 1/3 of hot cream into the sugar.  Be very cautious.  The sugar will steam and bubble.  Whisk well until combined.  Slowly continue to add the rest of the cream.  Then add in butter and whisk.  Let caramel sit at room temperature until completely cooled and thickened.

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Now begin on the frosting.  Cream together cream cheese, butter and salt until well combined.  Add in 1/2 a cup of caramel (do not heat it up).  Mix until combined.  Add powdered sugar a cup at a time until desired thickness.

Once cupcakes are completely cooled go ahead and frost however you would like.  Then drizzle leftover caramel across the top!

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Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage

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After a week, I’m back! I had a busy weekend helping spread the word for a friend’s Cincinnati School Board campaign (Go Elisa Hoffeman!) and having my best friend from high school in town. For Sunday night dinner I whipped up a baked rigatoni with italian sausage. It was a perfect end to a great weekend.  This dish is also great as leftovers.  You can easily spoon into ramekins and pop into the oven to heat up after a hectic day at work!  With the week I am having I have eaten this the past 3 nights in a row and it is just as good every time!

Baked Rigatoni with Italian Sausage

Serves 6; Prep time 20 min; Cook time 15-20 min

Ingredients:

  • 12oz of Rigatoni
  • 24oz jar of roasted garlic marinara
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 lb of ground italian sausage
  • 1 bunch of spinach
  • 1/2 cup ricotta
  • 1/2 cup parmesan plus additional for top of pasta, grated
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella, shredded
  • a few shakes of crushed red pepper (depending on how spicy you like it!)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook pasta according to packaging.  In the mean time while your noodles are boiling sauté garlic and onions in olive oil over medium heat until they begin to soften, about 4 minutes.  Add in ground italian sausage and salt and pepper to taste.  Break apart with a wooden spoon and cook until no longer pink.  Drain pasta.

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Return pasta to the pot. Combine with italian sausage mixture, sauce, spinach, cheeses, and crushed red pepper.  Spoon into 6 individual ramekins or a 9×13 baking dish.  Sprinkle the tops with additional parmesan and bake for 15-20 or until cheese is melted. Serve with a caesar salad and a loaf of hot french bread.

Asparagus Risotto

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With the weather getting cooler there’s nothing better than curling up with a big bowl of risotto on a fall night.  Although this recipe is well suited for spring (with asparagus in season), it can be adapted with any other ingredients that you like! Mushrooms, perhaps!  Just keep the base the same and add away to your heart’s desire.  I absolutely love risotto, but it is not a quick week night meal.  For those of you unfamiliar with risotto, it is just an italian rice called arborio and can be found in any grocery store. The slow stirring of the italian rice allows for the creamy, comforting texture.  Risotto is a meal in and of itself!  Pair with a crusty loaf of warm bread and a glass of wine and you have a beautiful meal.

Asparagus Risotto

*Adapted from skinnytaste

Serves 4 (generous portions); Active time in the kitchen 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 cups of low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white white, such as chardonnay
  • 1 bunch of asparagus spears, tough ends trimmed, cut 2 inches on the bias
  • 2 tsp fresh lemons juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for serving
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest for garnish

Directions:

In a large saucepan, heat broth over medium high heat.  Once it reaches boiling, reduce heat and simmer on low.  In a large heavy saucepan heat olive oil and add chopped shallots.  Sauté for about 3 minutes or until shallots are translucent.  Stir in rice and mix well to coat with oil.  Sauté for another 2-3 minutes until rice is translucent.  Pour in wine and stir slowly until absorbed.

Begin to add in your stock.  Add one ladle at a time.  Stir until absorbed before adding your next ladleful.  Stir slowly and consistently.  Continue this process until rice is creamy, tender, but slightly firm in the center.  Add asparagus along with the last ladle of broth.  Continue cooking and stirring for another 5 minutes.  It should take about 25-30 minutes from when you began.  (Note: you may not use all of your broth.)  If you are unsure, it’s OK to sample as you go along, especially if this is one of your first times making risotto! When all the liquid has been absorbed, remove from heat and add in the lemon juice, parsley, and parm.

Plate 1 cup sized portions and top with freshly ground black pepper, zest, and a sprinkling of parm.  Add a parsley leaf for an extra touch!

Apple Crisp

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As I look at this I seriously wish I had a nice camera.  The i-phone just doesn’t cut it.  But hey, on a teacher’s salary I’ll take what I can get.  As I am wrapping up a 4 day weekend, (one of the perks of the job) I am thankful to have spent the past few days with the people I love and awesome fall weather!   I took the 30 minute scenic drive to McGlasson Farms in Kentucky to pick up some beautiful Winesap apples, which made a delicious apple crisp.  Top it off with Graeter’s vanilla ice cream and you get a perfect fall dessert.

Fall Apple Crisp

*Adapted from Ina Garten

Serves 8; Prep Time 15 min; Total Time 1 hr 15 min

Ingredients:

  • 7 Winesap Apples (or any apple that stands up to cooking, you don’t want applesauce!)
  • Grated zest of half a lemon
  • Grated zest of half an orange
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the topping (the best part!)

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep baking dish with butter (I used a medium sized casserole dish). Peel, core and slice apples into wedges.  In a mixing bowl combine apples with zests, juices, sugar and spices.  Spread in an even layer in baking dish.

For the topping combine flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal and butter with a hand mixer or with the paddle attachment in a Kitchen Aid Mixer.  Mix on low until crumbly and butter is the size of peas.  Coat apples evenly with topping.  Bake on 350 degrees for one hour or until browned and bubbly.  Serve hot with a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.